Flu Outbreak Strikes Region 8 School; Nearly 1,000 Students Out Sick During Last Three Days

February 2, 2005 – Posted at 3:58 p.m.

JONESBORO -- The number of flu cases in Arkansas is expected to rise before the end of winter. And while vaccines are still available, it's not doing much to keep kids at one school in Region 8 school in class.

The halls at the Valley View Junior High may look crowded, but they're not.

"We have 55 out in the elementary school, 67 out in the intermediate school, 101 at the jr. high, and 77 at the high school. That's 18% of our student body," said Principal Robert McKeel.

And that's just for Wednesday.

The Valley View School District has been hit pretty hard with the flu virus, over the last three days, more than 900 students have been out sick.

"For us, it's more significant than what we've had in the last two to four years," said McKeel.

But it's not enough to shut the doors.

"If we were up near 25% then that might cause a problem with attendance with the kids and teachers, and with 25% it very well could be a point where we decide to shut down," said McKeel.

With the unexpected shortage of flu vaccine last year, many are finding themselves not protected. But there are supplies now.

"It's very much flu season until at least the end of February," said Registered Nurse Beth Guest with the Craighead County Health Department, "So it's still very possible to get a flu shot."

Basic hygiene can prevent the spread of the flu.

"The number one way is to always wash your hands," said Guest, "Of course, not always touching your hands and face. You don't think about germs that you've got on your hands and then you can get them through your mucus membranes."

And the best advice yet...

"If you are just really not feeling like it, please stay home and that will prevent the spread," said Guest.

Valley View isn't the only school in Region 8 suffering from an outbreak. The Brookland School District has also had a significant number of students out sick.